my gaming history

I came across this post from Kotaku about trying to collect and preserve the context of the world of computer games ie getting the external materials, promotions, articles and so forth which provide a real world background to the development of the game itself.

This sort of ties into one of my ongoing concerns in game preservation, how do I convey the sense of “atari thumb”?  As this link shows, the Atari joystick was fairly basic. I spent so many hours using that controller as a teenager, thumb on the red button, mashing it as hard as I could. Eventually, you’d have to stop playing as your thumb got too sore to continue hence “atari thumb”.

There’s plenty of options around for game emulation including the almighty Internet Archive’s Game Arcade and MAME has just had its 20th birthday. However it’s one thing to be able to play the old games, it’s another thing entirely to talk about and understand the culture of gaming when the original systems existed. It’s nice to see for example, that the internet archive is maintaining an archive of old computer magazines including one of my favourites from the 80s, the UK Computer + Video Games. I bought this magazine every month, usually for one column, particular, the Adventurer’s Helpline.

The Adventurer pages were full of hints and reviews text adventures including the US Infocom, and the English Level 9. I have vague recollections of reader letters and responses too so it felt like there was an international community. There were also Oz based magazines including the Australian Commodore Review which morphed into the Australian Commodore & Amiga Review and included a dedicated text adventure section called “Adventurer’s Realm“. Capturing that external world of gaming is a tricky beast. Many years ago, I discarded most of my original copies of those magazines though did cut out all the adventure columns. I’m sorta hoping that I’ve retained that small archive somewhere in a box. On other hand, it seems to be the case that more and more of this material is being digitised and made available online.

sat nav

I’ve never owned a sat-nav. I have on occasion, used google maps on the phone. Going to a new place I may check google maps at home to get a sense of where a place is. In olden days, I’d rely on on a printed street directory, I still have one in the car. But turn by turn driving, with computer voiceover, no thanks.

When driving I like a broad sense of where I’m going and then I generally fudge a bit when in the right-ish vicinity. Sometimes in moments of desperation I will get the phone out and find out where the bloody hell I am. This approach is not particularly efficient, a little bit lazy, and a little bit stubborn.

I reflect on this occasionally when playing video games, or should I call them computer games, though both terms sound a little archaic. Grand Theft Auto for example does a fullish sat-nav thang wih a coloured line from your car to your destination that recalculates if you take a different course.

map of skyrimHowever I think the Skyrim approach works best for me. It puts a spot on the Skyrim map where I’m heading and I can see a rough idea of the terrain between it and me with a sense of where the major route may lie. That’s about it. I journey toward that point, not quite directly. Diversions occur, weird paths cross my own and beg to be followed. I head off on detours, all the while keeping in mind where I’m ultimately heading.

Travel for me, in gaming and in life, is rarely about getting from point A to point B.

five in a while

It’s a been a long, long while since I last blogged five things:

time to play

I was a little disappointed that Tomb Raider for the PS4 was not out in time for the long weekend…not to mention Dishonored 2 and the updated version of Skyrim…all of which are due in October. Later in October when I probably won’t have as much time to play. On the other hand, it doesn’t really matter if I don’t get to play them on day 1, yet there is something of that sense of release day anticipation…still. I’m 48 now and I feel it at the edge of my consciousness: lurking, waiting, intensifying. It is the same of books, I have to have that book on day 1, first edition, etc…though I no longer necessarily read it that day.

Yet, day 1 desire remains.

I recently got round to playing The Last of Us, the PS4 remastered version of which was released in 2014…2 years ago, and the PS3 version was released before that. It was still a good game. Then there’s the Bioshock Collection, released in September on the PS4 yet been around for years on other platforms. I nearly bought it for the long weekend but thought no, I won’t finish all 3 by the time Tomb Raider is released. I can always play it later.

The PS3 version of Skyrim was a massive timesink and I spent over 300 hours playing it that summer. I may never have time to play that enough, nor even that amount of time to play. I was single and living alone in those days, now I have other, wonderful people in my life. I still fire up the PS3 and play a little Skyim every so often. Yet, I am also curious about starting from scratch on the PS4 and seeing what sort of game I’d play these days.

Instead, on the long weekend, I bought nothing new and enjoyed what I had. I continue to be rather fond of No Man’s Sky, though it’s more exploratory than actual game. It is strangely alluring and easy to lose many hours playing. I finally got round to playing The Order: 1886 which was generally panned on release as being short and lacking in the gameplay department. While gameplay is a little simplistic and full of detailed setpieces, it is visually sumptious and I’m hard put to think of a game that is so well realised in its visualisation of the environment. I’ve spent a lot of time just sitting back and viewing my surroundings. The story too, seems sufficient and I look forward to finishing it off.

Further to gaming I finally finished season 1 of Daredevil on Netflix which was pretty fab. I found the 13 episodes a little slow at times but the story and character development was good. I’m undecided whether to move to season 2, or watch season 1 of Jessica Jones next, and of course Luke Cage has recently dropped. I have at least read most of the comics for Jessica Jones. To top off a good three days off work, I also managed to get through the first half of season 2 of Once Upon a Time. Somewhere in there, I’d like to fit in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D but suspect I’ll need to buy the DVDs as it doesn’t seem to be on the Oz version of Netflix. I do have the DVDs for the first season of The Expanse and I’ve read the first two books.

So much to watch and play and yet I still hunger for day 1 releases. That’s a wee bit wrong.

five on a seat

With a heading like that, I feel like I’m channelling the Famous Five and that may yet lead me down an interesting path for headings…five take a flying jump and so on. Here’s another five articles of vague interest:

another 5

The downside of leaving it too long is that I end up with too many to cull to get it down to 5. No particular pattern to my selection, other than vague interest and curiosity.

drive update

After many years living mostly alone, living with teenagers, aside from the regular challenges of living with teenagers, has some unexpected issues.

The hard drive on the PS4 was full! We had to delete stuff to add a game.

I’ve never had a full hard drive on a console before. I don’t buy enough games and I tend to play in spurts. Back in the day, I bought a second memory card (8MB per card) for the PS2 just in case, but never used it. The PS3 continues to power on. The Atari’s games are standalone cartridges, no save files whatsoever.

The PS4 has 500GB and Sony have just released an upgraded model doubling the hard drive to 1TB. However, I had heard it was possible to install a new drive yourself and sure enough Sony even provide instructions. Somewhere along the way, I came across someone who had installed a 2TB drive as they figured 1TB wasn’t big enough. Given we’ve filled a 500GB in less than 12 months, they might be right.

On Saturday, I popped down the road and bought a 2TB drive for the princely sum of $175. This thing was about the size of a credit card and as tall as a few stacked. Got home and did a full back of the current drive which alas takes several hours.

On Sunday morning,

  1. I slid the cover off the PS4
  2. undid 5 screws
  3. took out old drive
  4. put in new drive
  5. initialised and installed system from USB
  6. restored backup, which also took several hours

All went well. The instructions were easy to follow and the hardest bit of the drive swapping was finding a screwdriver small enough.

Then I installed the new Assassin’s Creed :)